The Toy Photographers Blog: What is your connection to LEGO?
Daniyel Garcia: I have been into LEGO ever since I was a kid. It was always the go-to toy for my brother and I. We had this old LEGO ideas magazine for LEGO castle system. There were many builds of yellow-bricked castles. Ours were multiple colored versions of the ideas in a smaller scale.
TTPB: How long have you been a toy photographer?
DG: I have been photographing my LEGOs with my beers before Instagram, I was using this beer tracking app called “Untappd,” which basically tracks every single beer I have drunk or tried. I was double posting on that and Instagram and started getting a lot of feedback on Instagram.
TTPB: What is the origin of your Instagram name
DG: When my long time friend came back from one of his multiple tours in the Middle East, we had a conversation about the names of rappers. He asked how “Gucci Mane” is even a name, and we talked about “Timbaland” also, and confirmed that brand names misspelled made great rapper names. I dubbed myself “Louie Baton,” a take on Louis Vuitton. I have been using that name on most of my online accounts, starting with XBOX live and other gaming accounts.
TTPB: I realize your main focus is beer and LEGO, has it always been this way?
DG: Pretty much for the past 4-5 years, beer has always been incorporated into my LEGO photography. It gives me ideas as to what I am going to make out of my LEGO.
TTPB: What kind of equipment do you use: phone or DSLR?
DG: Right now I use a Samsung S6, basically my phone. I started off by using small Canon pocket camera, but I had to upload to a PC then move the picture from the PC to my phone. The Canon pocket camera took better pictures than my Sidekick LX (yes I know, I was totally into my Sidekick phones from the start, mainly because of the keyboard), but now newer phones basically take better pictures than most pocket cameras, and the fact that everything can be done on one device.
TTPB: Do you prefer studio or outdoor photography?
DG: I do prefer outdoor photography, but being mainly a stay-at-home dad, my outdoor options are limited. My wife allows me use of a corner in our bedroom to setup a Foldio lightbox next to a small beer fridge (that used to be the kid’s milk fridge).
TTPB: What kind of studio set up do you have? Lights? Background? Light box?
DG: Just a $5 Ikea end table with a Foldio light box atop it. Sometimes, and this is rare, I’ll use a mirror/LCD TV combo only for backgrounds.
TTPB: Do you really drink all that beer?
DG: Yes. I was addicted to just getting multiple check-ins on Untappd, but now it has come to the point where I get beermail sent to me so I can fashion a LEGO post for it. I am backlogged a bit, and there’s beer in the vegetable crisper and in the butter and eggs compartments in our main fridge.
TTPB: Did you know very much about beer before you started? Do you consider yourself an expert now?
DG: Before Untappd, my brother and I were keeping track of the beers we had on a blank 8.5×11″ sheet of paper kept on the fridge. It got filled front and back and we started a second page. A restaurant/beer chain opened up nearby called “Yard House” (yard house because they were serving beer in a tall bong-like glass that was a yard tall, for the past few years though they only do half-yards) and we memorized all of the tap handles. That was before how beer is now. It is now almost impossible to know every tap handle.
TTPB: Have you ever repeated a beer?
DG: Yes. There are some beers that are just that good, and/or just that popular that it warrants a second or third post. I feel that my LEGO building and photography skills have evolved at least a little bit over time.
TTPB: Have you ever been stumped for an appropriate image by a particular beer?
DG: Multiple times. More times than I can count. If it wasn’t sent to me, then I’ll secretly drink it. LOL. Well that’s also the beauty of Untappd. I feel like my posts aren’t wasted on there since I mainly use it for my own record keeping, whereas I have held myself up to a certain standard on Instagram.
TTPB: Do you have a goal for your beer and toy photography?
DG: Actually, now that the question has been asked. No. I just look forward to the next beer and the next tiny LEGO piece in the newest sets.
TTPB: What is the image you’re most proud of?
DG: I can’t say that there’s one single image I am proud of. I take pride in every build/photo that I do. Although, their have been builds/photos where I feel like I could have done better but for some reason gained a lot of traction, and builds/photos where I sat and took my time setting up and didn’t gain any traction.
TTPB: How long does it take you set up a photo?
DG: I try to do my LEGO builds in under 20 minutes. This does not account for the time I spend thinking about it, which is done while I am doing my daily tasks like driving my kid around or while I am brainstorming during one of my daily workouts/runs. The photo setup is only a couple minutes if any.
TTPB: Do you buy special parts when you plan for a photo for a particular beer?
DG: Yes. I have grown accustomed to researching new pieces, or even older pieces I do not yet own, on the LEGO bricks and pieces site, and on bricklink. I look at all new sets and look at what new piece is being introduced. LEGO sneaks in something new in most sets, and I feel the need to have it. Right now I need a dalmatian, I missed out on it in a past Advent calendar, and the firehouse it came in was too expensive for me, right now it’s available in the pricey Minifigure Fun at the Beach set, but I think he’s available on Bricks and Pieces on the LEGO site.
TTPB: What is the most surprising thing to have happened to you since your started?
DG: I still get surprised every time I am contacted about being paid or compensated for my work. I am still in the process of bringing myself up to this next level.
TTPB: Is it my imagination, or are you creating more complex custom builds for your photos?
DG: No, it is not your imagination at all. I am actually quite happy you have noticed. There are multiple other accounts that pose LEGO minifigures near beer and possibly have a silly little anecdote. That was my account 3-4 years ago. Not to distance myself from those origins, but it was getting stale for me. Here I have at my disposal an arsenal of LEGO and it wasn’t really being used. Now I think it through and plan out every build to the tiniest 1×1 piece or LEGO friends accessory.
TTPB: How does your family feel about your hobby? Your friends?
DG: My son loves that I go straight to the toy aisle so he can look too. He’s more into Hot Wheels Monster Jam, but he knows the deal. LEGO aisle first. That means both aisles, LEGO and DUPLO/Friends. I even buy him a set, pending I hopefully get the tiniest one piece I want out of that set. The wife gets it. And on vacations, I get to pick at least 1 beer place to visit. My friends just laugh. All know that I do stay away from my personal life and my hobby life from crossing paths online.
TTPB: Where do you want this to go from here? What do you envision the future to be?
DG: I envision what I am doing right now, as this is my hobby. Just building and drinking.
Daniyel Garcia (aka LouieBaton)